Last year, Ducks Unlimited and its partners launched an ambitious two-year fundraising campaign to renovate Cheyenne Bottoms, the largest inland wetland in the United States. The original goal of the drive, dubbed Bring Back the Bottoms, was to raise $300,000, but DU has already beat that by raising $510,000.
“The 2019 BBB efforts were recognized at the Kansas Ducks Unlimited Convention on Feb. 21-22 in Wichita,” Kansas Wetlands Education Center Director Curtis Wolf told the Great Bend City Council Monday night. “We are one year into this.”
So far, “17 chapters, plus numerous volunteers, have assisted in this statewide effort to benefit Cheyenne Bottoms,” he said. “Through four evenings of conservation, two tribute events (Camp Aldrich and Kansas City), and 46 new (or upgraded) life sponsors, these folks’ efforts have already generated $80,000-plus in traditional income and over $510,000 in restricted major donor funds to directly benefit Cheyenne Bottoms.”
Among the contributing partners at the Camp Aldrich event was the City of Great Bend. For its support, Wolf presented Mayor Cody Schmidt with a limited-edition print of ducks in flight.
“We are excited in the momentum thus far and expect a growing campaign through year two. The special Bring Back the Bottoms canvas prints were given out to event sponsors and partners.
The almost 20,000-acre public wildlife area, owned by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, is a wetland area of international importance for migratory birds. The area is also an economic boost for south-central Kansas.
“Cheyenne Bottoms is an essential stopover for millions of birds during their spring and fall migrations,” said Matt Hough, DU’s manager of conservation for Kansas. “The shallow wetlands and grass support about 350 bird species. Half of North America’s shorebirds and rare whooping cranes visit every year.”
The area has been recognized as internationally important to birds by the Ramsar Convention, National Audubon Society and American Bird Conservancy. Birders, hunters and other nature enthusiasts come from across the county, nearly 60,000 annually, to enjoy the area, generating nearly $3 million to Kansas economy.
“Unfortunately, the wetland’s ability to attract birds has declined and will only get worse unless we act,” Hough said. “The Bottoms is filling up with silt, which plugs water control structures and other infrastructure needed to keep the wetland in good, healthy condition.”
The area’s last major renovation was done in the early 1990s, and KDWPT wetland managers are struggling to maintain quality habitat due to aging and dilapidated infrastructure. The inability to efficiently move water between and out of the wetland units has created an overabundance of cattails and other invasive species. Ducks Unlimited and KDWPT have developed a multi-year major renovation plan estimated to cost more than $2 million.
“Our partners at KDWPT have $6 million in public dollars available, but we must raise an additional $300,000 in private dollars to help this effort,” Hough said. “Ducks Unlimited has stepped up to help with fundraising and the restoration effort.”
For more information on how to help Bring Back the Bottoms, contact Kirk Davidson at email@example.com or 303-927-1949, or Eric Lindstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-355-3503.